Sunday, April 16, 2017

California History: The Sacramento Flood

With April showers hitting us hard this Spring season, we thought it would be fitting to share an amazing piece of local History depicting one of the most devastating natural disasters of the mid-Nineteenth Century. 

This view of Sacramento depicts the city during a flood in 1850. Rain and melting snow from the Sierra Nevada mountains caused the Sacramento river to flow over the levee. Looking down J st from the levee, this view documents notable buildings and landmarks submerged in flood waters. At the head of J street on the left hand side is a knoll of ground made by the Indians, called Sa’cum, which stayed dry throughout the flood. Sutter’s Fort is 25 miles from the Levee and is at the head of J st. To the left of J street can be found the City Hotel, which faces onto the levee and was built in 1849 at a cost of $78,000. The Sutter Hotel, which can found to the far right of J st and also facing the levee was built in 1848 at a cost $50,000.
Geo W. Casilear & Henry Bainbridge
View of Sacramento City During the Great Inundation in January 1850
New York: Napoleon Sarony, c.1850
hand-colored lithograph
41” x 29 1/4”

A thrilling account -From Daily Alta California, Volume 1, Number 17, 16 January 1850
"SACRAMENTO CITY, Jan,10, 1850. This will be a day never to be forgotten by the residents of Sacramento City as a day that awoke their fears for the safety of their city against the dangers of a flood long since prophesied.
I was awakened early on the following morning (the 11th) by the shouting and noise from without, I rose and dressed and went out upon the veranda of the Sutter House, (where I had taken a room) and here I had a clear view of the dangers to be apprehended. Before me, along the entire length of the levee, I saw with certainty the beginning of a flood. Long before noon hundreds of boats were crossing every street, far and near, and bearing to the several vessels that lay at the river’s bank, women and children, the sick and the feeble; and as they arrived, the owners of the vessels were ready to offer them prompt aid and every comfort in their power; and when they were safely landed upon the decks, the shout of joy went up to heaven in loud cheers from those who landed them, for their safety, and these shouts were echoed back by the hundreds of voices that were in the surrounding boats, and within hearing of the response. During the entire day and until night, this work of humanity and mercy went on. The loss of property must be very great — it must be over a million of dollars. As night approached and the waters continued to increase, great fears were entertained for the buildings that were considered safe until now for the vast body of water that continued to rush in on the levee in front of the city was evidence that but a very few could expect to be above the reach of water in the morning. Measures were now taken to prepare several places where food and lodging could be had, by raising new floors some two and three feet above the former ones; but this could only be done in a few houses, so many being underwater and all cooking apparatus belonging to the many eating houses being completely submerged. Besides this the several “Bakeries,” were so deluged that no bread could be had other than hard bread. These places for refreshment were quickly arranged so that the many hundreds that were driven from their homes and could not be accommodated on board the shipping should find food and shelter until they could leave the city or find houses in some place until the waters should subside."